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Get The Dirt On Your Soil


By Patricia Daniels, University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture

For decades the University of Tennessee Soil, Plant and Pest Center has provided science-based analysis of soils for farmers, landscapers, and home gardeners. On January 2, the University of Tennessee Soil, Plant and Pest Center will begin using new technology to expand the scientific analyses, as well as enhance the speed with which clients may receive their test results.

Debbie Joines, SPP Center manager, says the most significant change to the soil-testing service will be upgrading the center’s former “Basic Soil Test” to a new test labeled the “Plus Soil Test.”

“UT Extension has invested in new technology that will now allow the Soil, Plant and Pest Center to provide clients with test results that include all nine Mehlich 1 analytes,” says Joines. “With the Plus Soil Test, clients will receive results for pH as well as P (phosphorus), K (potassium), Ca (calcium), Mg (magnesium), Zn (zinc), Mn (manganese), Fe (iron), Cu (copper), and B (boron). The former Basic Soil Test provided only evaluations of pH and four analytes—P, K, Ca and Mg,” she explains. The Basic Soil Test will no longer be available.

Find more information on these minerals at the Purdue website:

As part of the expanded services, Joines pledges that SPP Center clients will now receive their results extremely fast. “Our upgrades will allow us to speed up our turnaround time. Clients can submit samples and see results in most cases as quickly as overnight if they choose to access their reports on the internet, either through a desktop computer or through a tablet or smartphone,” said Joines. Users who supply an email address along with their Soil Information Sheet will be prompted to sign into the system upon availability of results. Specifically, Joines says routine soil test results and reports are expected to be available within 1 – 2 days of sample receipt. “If a client wants a more detailed battery of tests, it might take longer. However, we can still provide faster turnaround than we could before the upgrades.”

Joines says the new system will be operational beginning January 2. “Producers will be able to make critical production decisions and fulfill treatments in a timely manner,” she explained. “Our soil amendment recommendations are maintenance recommendations that will keep your soil fertile with a minimum amount of expenditure. This allows for lower fertilizer costs and amounts and produces higher yields.”

The new technology does come at a cost. While the price for the routine “Plus Soil Test” will remain the same as the old “Basic Plus Test,” some of the fees for SPP Center services are increasing. The cost for the new forage nutritional tests will remain the same. Also, distance plant and pest diagnostics will remain free through your County UT Extension Office. On-line access to results for both of those services is another upgrade planned for the near future.

For detailed service and pricing information, see the UT Soil, Plant and Pest Center website:

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